Frequently Asked Section 8 Questions

How do I find a unit that accepts a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher?

As long as certain requirements are met, you can use your Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher at apartments and houses owned by a private landlord that accepts vouchers, Low Income Housing Tax Credit properties, Section 515 Rural Rental Housing properties, and eligible units owned by a housing authority that administers assistance under an Annual Contributions Contract.

The specific requirements can get complicated, so we have explained everything in an easy to read guide here.

Besides using our website to find a unit that accepts your voucher, the housing authority that manages your voucher may have a list of local landlords who accept vouchers. Contact the housing authority office, and ask if a list is available. You can use the search bar on the top of our website to find housing authority contact information.


Can I take my Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher to a different area? (Portability)

Yes, you can take your Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher to a different area once specific conditions are met. This process is referred to as "portability." You can read more about HUD's portability policy here.


What is Section 8?

Section 8 housing is a federally funded program aimed to assist low-income families in America pay for rent. There are two different branches of the Section 8 program: the Housing Choice Voucher program (called "tenant-based" assistance), which allows you to choose the housing location; and "project-based" assistance, which requires you to live at a specific property.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (commonly referred to as HUD) provides funding for Section 8, along with several other affordable housing programs such as Public Housing. Thousands of housing authorities located around the country receive the funding from HUD, and administer Section 8 vouchers (among other programs) within its local jurisdiction.

Qualified families or individuals accepted into the Housing Choice Voucher program receive a voucher that pays a portion of their monthly rent. The tenant is responsible for paying 30 percent of their monthly adjusted income for rent. This amount can be adjusted through deductions including child care expenses and medical expenses, among others. The voucher covers the difference.

Please click here for more information about Section 8


How long are affordable housing waiting lists?

Because of the high demand of affordable housing, and comparatively low supply, it is not rare to be on a waiting list for several years.

Generally, large metropolitan areas have long waiting lists, while lower populated areas have shorter waiting lists. However, an apartment community's waiting list is usually shorter than a Section 8 or Public Housing waiting list. There may also be an instance in which there is no waiting list, but those opportunities are rare, and applicants must still go through an approval process.

Contact the housing authority or apartment community you applied through to find out its policy on how to find out your status on its waiting list. The method of how to find out your status varies by each office. Please keep in mind that some offices are not able to provide your specific position on the waiting list, but can confirm if you are currently on the waiting list.

If the office cannot state your specific position on the waiting list, the representative may be able to confirm the date they are currently pulling applications from. For example, if you applied in January 2016, and the office is pulling applicants who applied in January 2013, you likely still have a long wait for assistance.

If you applied through a housing authority, and the office cannot provide information on your current wait time, ask how you can access its Annual Plan. This document, which is updated yearly, may have information about the current number of households on the waiting list, and the office's annual turnover rate. You can use simple math to estimate the length of the waiting list based on these numbers. For example, if there are 1,000 households on the waiting list, and the annual turnover rate is 200 households, calculate (1,000 ÷ 200), which is 5. It would take that office about five years to serve all households on that waiting list. Unfortunately, not all housing authorities provide both pieces of information on their Annual Plan.

If there are any further questions about the specific waiting list you would like to apply to, please contact the appropriate housing authority or apartment community.

You can use the search bar at the top of this page to search for housing authority and apartment community contact information.


Can I be evicted if my HUD apartment is sold?

If a Project Based Section 8 apartment community is sold and the new owner decides not to renew the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract with HUD, they can permanently relocate residents. However, under the federal Uniform Relocation Act (URA), Project-Based Section 8 tenants receive certain protections including relocation advisory services, extended relocation notice requirements, moving expense reimbursement and substantial payments to cover the increased costs of replacement housing.

According to Relocation Assistance To Tenants Displaced From Their Homes (HUD-1042-CPD), HUD booklet for displaced tenants, if a tenant is notified they will be displaced, "it is important that you do not move before you learn what you must do to receive the relocation payments and other assistance to which you are entitled."

The benefits displaced tenants are entitled to are:

  • Extended move out notice. You are not required to move without at least 90 days advance written notice. The written notice must identify at least one comparable rental property available to you and the earliest date by which you must move.
  • Relocation advisory services. Counseling services that include referrals to comparable replacement housing, inspection of replacement housing to ensure it meets established standards, claim for preparation assistance, and other counseling to minimize the cost and impact of the move.
  • Moving Expense Payment. Payment of actual moving expense and/or a fixed moving expense and dislocation allowance.
  • Allowance for Replacement Housing. To provide a renter with the financial resources needed to find replacement housing, the tenant is entitled to relocation assistance payments to buy or rent replacement housing. The URA entitles displaced renters to rental assistance for a 42 month period following displacement. The amount of monthly assistance is determined by subtracting 30% of a low-income tenant's monthly income from the monthly rent payment for the replacement housing. For example, if a displaced Section 8 tenant earns $500 per month and replacement housing costs $800 per month, for 42 months, the tenant would receive $650 per month for 42 months, $800 (the new rent) minus $150 (30% of monthly income).

To receive these benefits, a displaced tenant must file a claim.

Relocation regulations and the benefits tenants are entitled to are complicated. Many purchasers of Project-Based Section 8 properties are either inexperienced with the program and its requirements or choose to ignore them. Often, a new owner tries to just evict everyone upon assuming ownership without following the Uniform Relocation Act, which is unlawful.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are being displaced, it is very important that you do not move until you identify what your rights are.

HUD has a great overview of the URA and even provides Regional Relocation Specialists (directory) that can assist tenants in danger of relocation.


What is my status on the waiting list?

The best way to check your status on a waiting list is to contact the housing authority or apartment community you applied to. The method of how to find out your status varies by each office. Some offices are not able to provide your specific position on the waiting list, but can confirm if you are currently on the waiting list.

If the office cannot state your specific position on the waiting list, the representative may be able to confirm the date they are currently pulling applications from. For example, if you applied in January 2016, and the office is pulling applicants who applied in January 2013, you likely still have a long wait for assistance.

If you applied through a housing authority, and the office cannot provide information on your current wait time, ask how you can access its Annual Plan. This document, which is updated yearly, may have information about the current number of households on the waiting list, and the office's annual turnover rate. You can use simple math to estimate the length of the waiting list based on these numbers. For example, if there are 1,000 households on the waiting list, and the annual turnover rate is 200 households, calculate (1,000 ÷ 200), which is 5. It would take that office about five years to serve all households on that waiting list. Unfortunately, not all housing authorities provide both pieces of information on their Annual Plan.

It is important to update the housing authority or apartment community you applied to immediately with any changes to your application (income, household members, contact information, etc...). Not doing so may result in the termination of your application. When checking your waiting list status, it does not hurt to make sure your other information is up to date as well.


The Section 8 and/or Public Housing waiting lists in my area are closed. Are there other affordable housing programs?

If the waiting list is closed in the area you want to apply in, you cannot apply at that time, but there may be other programs available other than Section 8 HCV and Public Housing. Housing authorities often provide additional housing programs. You can also search our website for your area of interest, and scroll down to the list of affordable housing communities that may have other programs available. Please contact the housing authority or apartment community for more information.


Why is the housing authority giving Section 8 vouchers when there are no rentals available, and if there are, they don't take Section 8?

While it is can be difficult for Section 8 voucher holders to find a unit, there are properties and landlords out there that accept Section 8 Vouchers. You can use our website to make your search easier.

Please read our guide on where you can use your voucher, along with step-by-step instructions on how to use our website to find a unit that will accept your voucher.

Also, the housing authority you applied through may have information on landlords who accept vouchers. Contact the housing authority office for more information. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information here.


What are the requirements to be a Section 8 landlord? Are housing quality standards uniform throughout the country?

This page on HUD's website is a good place to start to learn about being a landlord. The housing quality standards for the Section 8 program are uniform across the country however, since they are interpreted and enforced by thousands of different housing authorities and inspectors, there are large discrepancies in standards from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. To view HUD's standard quality standards, go here. You should be prepared for different interpretation by different housing authorities and even different inspectors within the same housing authority.


Can I use a Section 8 voucher to help pay my mortgage?

Yes, you can use a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher to help pay your mortgage, but the housing authority that manages your voucher must participate in HUD's Homeownership Voucher Program.

This program operates just like the Section 8 program, only your voucher is used to pay your mortgage and other homeownership expenses.

Housing authorities may choose to participate in the Homeownership Voucher Program, but are not required to do so by HUD. From 2012-2017, 963 housing authorities nationwide have reported the use of a Homeownership Voucher. All states but Wyoming have at least one housing authority that has participated in the program, and many states have numerous participating housing authorities. Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and Guam have participating housing authorities as well. A spreadsheet of these housing authorities can be found here, in the link titled "MS-Excel file" under the section "Do all PHA's participate in this program?"

Expenses that may be assisted by your voucher include:

  • Mortgage principal and interest.
  • Mortgage insurance premium.
  • Real estate taxes and homeowner insurance.
  • Housing authority allowance for utilities.
  • Housing authority allowance for routine maintenance costs.
  • Housing authority allowance for major repairs and replacements.
  • Principal and interest on debt to finance major repairs and replacements.
  • And principal and interest on debt to finance costs to make the home accessible for a family member with disabilities if the housing authority determines it is needed as a reasonable accommodation.

Homeownership Voucher participants must already have a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. If you don't currently have a Section 8 Voucher, you would first need to obtain one by applying to an open waiting list through the housing authority that serves your area of interest.

You can find more on how to apply for a Section 8 Voucher here.


Are you eligible for Section 8 if you own a home or other real estate?

You may or may not be eligible for Section 8 if you own a home or other real estate, depending on the income you earn from these assets.

Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher eligibility is based on income, not assets. So, it is possible to own a house or other real estate and still qualify for Section 8.

However, income for the purposes of determining Section 8 eligibility must include the income you earn from these assets. So, if you have equity in the house (meaning you owe less on the mortgage than the house is worth) or generate rental income in excess of your expenses, a certain amount of annual income is generated by the equity. This income is counted toward your income eligibility limit.

The HUD Section 8 HCV handbook addresses how a housing authority should treat equity in real property on page 5-26.

Let's say you own a house worth $150,000 and you have a mortgage on it of $155,000 (this is actually pretty common since the foreclosure crisis began), the house is not an asset, it is a liability and will not account for any income when calculating eligibility.

However, if you have a mortgage of $130,000 on the same house, you have $20,000 of equity in the house. Then, the housing authority must allocate income from this asset. HUD uses a passbook savings rate of 3.5% to calculate income on assets. So, the equity in the house would add $700 per year to your other income when calculating eligibility.

The actual rules on this are a little more complex. You are allowed credit for the costs to liquidate an asset. So, if in selling that same house you would incur a real estate commission of 7%, or $10,500, then, the income from the asset would actually be calculated on an asset value of $9,500, in effect, lowering the amount of income the housing authority would consider when determining eligibility.

This policy applies to many assets including cash, stocks, bonds, jewelry, coin collections and other liquidatable assets. The policy doesn't apply to necessary personal property and interests in an active business. To read more take a look at Exhibit 5-3, Summary of Asset Inclusions and Exclusions in the Housing Choice Voucher Program Guidebook.


I can't find a unit for my Section 8 Voucher by the deadline, can I get an extension?

If you are unable to find a unit for your Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher within the given deadline, you may request an extension, but it is not guaranteed to be granted.

HUD policy requires housing authorities to give a voucher holder at least 60 days to find an eligible unit, but allows deadline extensions. However, housing authorities are not required to approve deadline extension requests, and it is important to present a good case when requesting an extension. Housing authorities are given leeway on the length of extensions, and how many extensions can be granted, but that information must be described in its Administrative Plan.

A housing authority may require a progress report while searching for a unit, either when the voucher is first issued, or when an extension is granted. Even if a progress report is not required, providing one when requesting an extension may help your chances in getting the extension granted.

Contact the housing authority that manages your voucher for more information. You can use the search bar on the top of this page to search for housing authority contact information.


I'm on the Section 8 HCV waiting list; when should I start looking for a unit?

We cannot give direct advice on when you should start looking for a unit, we can provide you with information for you to make a decision.

First, you may use your voucher at a privately owned home. By applying to such a home, there would be no waiting list. So, you could wait until you receive your Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher to begin your search for a privately owned home.

However, your options are a bit more complicated if you want to use your voucher at an apartment community with a waiting list.

By applying to a property's waiting list while you are currently on a waiting list to receive a voucher, it is possible that your name reaches the top of the property's waiting list before you receive a voucher. If you are able to afford the rent without the voucher, you can move in and wait to receive your voucher. But, if you require the voucher to pay your rent at that property, you would be deemed ineligible for a unit.

On the other hand, by applying to a property's waiting list after you receive a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, it is possible that your deadline to use the voucher expires by the time your name reaches the top of the property's waiting list. HUD policy states that voucher holders must be given at least 60 days to find a unit. You may request an extension before the deadline to use the voucher passes, but it is still possible that your voucher expires before your name reaches the top of the property's waiting list. More information on voucher extensions can be found here.

Both options run their own risks, so it may be beneficial to apply to as many properties with a waiting list as possible, in hopes that at least one property will be available to you once you receive your voucher. You can speak with the intake representative at any property you apply to, and inform them of your situation. They may be able to assist you by asking for advice up front.

While making a decision, it is also important to note that being placed on a Section 8 waiting list does not guarantee that you will receive a voucher.

And please read our guide that explains where you can use a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher.


What are the regulations about having a Moving to Work voucher?

The Moving to Work voucher program is an ongoing HUD demonstration program that gives an enormous amount of policy flexibility to the 35 housing authorities across the country that are "testing" out the program.

The intent of the demonstration program is to find innovative ways to use housing assistance in a way that will increase financial sustainability for families with children while allowing the program to assist more people with the same level of funding.

Because it's a demonstration program, the "regulations" are not standardized and are set by each individual housing authority that's testing the program. They are still governed by other Federal laws and regulations like the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act and other regulations but the specific rules around how the housing voucher program is carried out is set by each housing agency.

You can imagine, given the programs name, there will be a requirement that you are actively working, seeking work or going through a training program that will better prepare you for work.

But to find out what the "regulations" are for a MTW voucher in your city (if the MTW demo program is available there), you must contact your local housing authority. You can search our website for housing authority contact information here.


My family and I live in Section 8, but I have to move. Can we continue to receive Section 8 assistance in both places?

You may not use a Section 8 voucher to receive rental assistance in two different units at the same time.

If you are the head of household, you may port your voucher to the area you will be moving to, as long as you have lived in your unit for one year, or were a resident when applying to the Section 8 waiting list. The housing authority that covers the area you are moving to must be currently absorbing vouchers, so contact that office for more information. If the housing authority is not absorbing, you may have to port to a different housing authority that covers a nearby area. Contact the housing authority that manages your voucher for more information. However, if you do port, your family would no longer receive rental assistance in the unit you are currently living in.

If you are not the head of household, you may move out of the unit, but you cannot use your voucher to cover your new unit. You may apply to the Section 8 waiting list through the housing authority that covers the area you are moving to, but the waiting list must be open, and you will be waiting months or years to receive the voucher.

Contact the housing authority that manages your voucher for more information. You can search our website for housing authority contact information here.


The housing authority is doing a Section 8 briefing, but the waiting list is closed. What does "briefing" mean?

It is likely that the housing authority is scheduling eligibility appointments with persons on the waiting list. It is also possible that the office hosting an event providing information on how to apply to the waiting list, or providing Section 8 tenants with information about housing authority policy.


Contact the housing authority you are referring to for more information. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information.


When I receive a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, can I terminate it for a year if I have to move temporarily?

No, when you receive a voucher, you have a specific amount of time to use that voucher before it is terminated.


You may be able to receive a short extension of the termination date by contacting the housing authority that gave you the voucher, but it would not be extended for a year.


My Section 8 landlord keeps upping the rent. What can I do?

If your landlord is upping the rent to an amount that is not affordable, it's time to look for another unit.

We are unable to provide individual housing search assistance.

Please read our guide on where you can use your voucher, along with step-by-step instructions on how to use our website to find a unit that will accept your voucher.

Also, the housing authority you applied through may have information on landlords who accept vouchers. Contact the housing authority office for more information. You can search our website for housing authority contact information here.


If you don't have a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, but your landlord accepts it, can you rent there?

Yes, you can live in the unit, but you will not receive rental assistance by doing so. To be able to receive any kind of rental assistance, you must go through the application process.


You can obtain a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher by applying through the housing authority that covers the jurisdiction where the unit is located.

Keep in mind that you may only apply to an open waiting list. If the waiting list is closed, you must wait to apply when it reopens. You may apply anywhere in the country, but must move to the jurisdiction of that housing authority once you receive a voucher.

If you have applied and been placed on the waiting list, you must then wait for your name to reach the top, and then you will receive a voucher.

Furthermore, having a landlord that accepts Section 8 vouchers does not automatically allow you to use the voucher for that unit. It must first be inspected and approved by the housing authority that covers your jurisdiction.

Once those steps have been taken, you may then use your voucher in that unit to receive rental assistance.



If I find housing before I get my Section 8 voucher, can I get approved sooner?

No. Finding a unit before receiving your voucher does not have any influence on when you receive your voucher. Once being placed on the waiting list, you must wait until your name reaches the top.


It is also not recommended to search for a unit before your name reaches the top of the waiting list. It may take months or years to get your voucher, and landlords would probably not hold the unit for you.

Generally, the only way to raise your spot on the waiting list is if you qualify for a preference identified by the housing office you applied through. Contact the office you applied through for more information. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information here.


How long does it take for a housing inspector to inspect the unit?

The length of time it takes for an inspector to inspect the unit can vary by each housing authority.

There are more than 2,300 housing authorities in the country that manage a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program. Each office is run differently, and their policies can differ. Their staffing may be different as well, as an office may have an efficient inspector, or one who may be inundated with work. Contact the housing authority that manages your voucher to find out if the office can estimate when the inspector will inspect your unit.

You can use the search bar on the top of this page to search our website for housing authority contact information.